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Layer Cake - Matthew Vaughn Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. First film as a director, how daunting was it, and how much of a job that you couldn't refuse?
A.
Daunting... the only daunting thing was making the decision to direct, that did scare me a little, thinking am I ready to bare myself to the world? But once I made the decision, I enjoyed every day of it.
But it was something that Guy [Ritchie] was meant to do, and when he decided not to direct it, just the idea of handing it over to somebody else didn't really add up in my mind. And I thought, they'd probably screw it up, so I'd rather screw it up myself.

Q. Has the film turned out better than even you would have dared hope?
A.
It's the movie I set out to make; it's the positive reaction that's surprised me. You never know what people are going to like and how people are going to react to what you do, and it's more nervous when you're proud of something and you know it works in your mind. So it makes you more vulnerable to then listen to people's opinons, because you just hope that they will feel the same way.

Q. We have a certain expectation, in stylistc terms, of British gangster films which you, as a producer, were partly responsible for creating. As a director, this film is a very, very stylish film, with shades of Norman Jewison. Did you try and go in for a more American feel, or try not to be Lock, Stock...?
A.
I was going for a more cinematic feel and I think people associate that with American, which isn't the case. I mean, every country can do movies which fill the screen, but Americans do it more often.

Q. Were there films that you were mentally referencing, such as The Thomas Crown Affair maybe?
A.
No, The Thomas Crown Affair wasn't... I mean my film knowledge is pretty lame, so it wouldn't be Norman Jewison, because I'm sure he's good, but he was no influence whatsoever on me.
Michael Mann, De Palma... visually, he moves the camera in a very, very beautiful manner, and I think Mann makes sure of the lighting; I mean, LA is probably one of the ugliest cities in the world, and Heat made LA look beautiful. So I thought we should be able to beat the look of Heat, because we've got London, and it's such a beautiful city, so let's photograph it in a way that it deserves.
So stylistically, they were the two biggest influences, and I also think they understood the balance between style over content, whereas I think other film-makers go more for being stylish and forget to tell the story first and then underpin it.

Q. Did you ration the violence? Did you hold back? How did you handle it?
A.
I wanted the violence to be realistic. I think Lock Stock and Snatch did a kind of cartoon aspect to it, where it was there but it was, dare I say it, fun. I wanted this to have more of a conscience, and for it to fit in with the movie and again be part of the story, not a talking point. Obviously it is, but I don't think this is the sort of film that kids will watch thinking 'oh, violence is cool, let's get an iron on a chest' - at least I hope that doesn't happen - but I think other films glamourise it in a way which does maybe bring about bad reactions or results. It was a conscious decision not to make a gory film, and we've got the 15 certificate as well, which is a new feeling for me.

Q. What was it in Daniel's work that suggested him for the role?
DANIEL:
You saw a cut-out of me, didn't you?
A. No, it was your suit. No, I went to watch Road to Perdition in LA, in this new cinema, and there was a mannequin of Daniel and the suit he wore in it. Actually, the thing that I really saw Daniel in was a short film he did, which I can't remember the name of right now, about four years ago, and I liked the idea of him for Snatch. But Daniel's the sort of actor, I've never seen him give a bad performance, which, as a director, is quite a promising start.
And Daniel had... it's a very brave actor who is prepared to do what looks like nothing on screen. There are times when everyone else is being quite colourful around you, and there are some actors who think screw this and start showing off, and Daniel didn't - well not on camera. And that worked. So when I met Daniel, I just knew he would be perfect for the role. It's an instinctive thing, when you meet someone, I've always known, as a director and producer, probably within the first 30 seconds of meeting someone, whether they have got the part. Normally, when you get them to read, it's just a confirmation, and Daniel didn't even have to read for it.

Q. You mentioned that filming in London was a key part of the filming process, but how easy was it to film in? Did you have to battle red tape?
A.
You do, but it's definitely easier than it was.... I mean, I think it was American Werewolf in London that screwed it for everyone and landed quite a few people in Piccadilly Circus, and then the next thing there were buses and the whole thing got shut down for 24 hours. But I think it's got much easier. We did have problems, we were going to film the shooting scene, with Lucky, in Primrose Hill, but we couldn't get permission to film there, and thank God, because when I saw Greenwich, I thought, well, I wouldn't want to go to Primrose Hill. We found it pretty easy. Some councils are better than others, but we chose most of our locations in film-friendly council areas.

Q. What movies have influence you creatively?
A.
The two biggest things, which really got it kick-started, were Star Wars and then Raiders of the Lost Ark, which confirmed that this is what I wanted to do as a career. I just like being entertained when I go to the cinema; give me a big thing of popcorn and a Coca-Cola and I'm happy, so long as I'm not... I mean Daniel makes a lot of films which, quite frankly, I don't see. I haven't seen The Mother, which I'm sure is excellent, but I did see Tomb Raider, which probably sums me up. So anything that's entertaining and good, but I obviously love, as I say, De Palma and Mann, Spielberg, Lucas, Ridley Scott, Guy, obviously. People go to the cinema to be entertained and to escape, and that's what I want to carry on trying to do.

Q. Women don't feature very strongly in your films, Matthew, and I wondered why that was?
A.
We're all mysoginists! Hollywood has the knack of... you could be on a submarine and suddenly they'll figure out a way of getting a woman onto it, when there apparently aren't any! In the world that we depict, I mean we've got girls in this one, at least, Sasha and Tammy, so that's two more than usual.
If there's a role for a girl, I'll put them in, but I refuse to create... I mean, in Lock, Stock we did have a 25-minute character we cut out, which was a girl, and we put it in purely because Hollywood was saying 'you need a love interest'. And then luckily, we had final cut, and I said to Guy this does not work, it's not what this movie is about, and that's why I think the film has done well, because we've always tried to stay true to the subject matter.

Q. In the wake of Lock, Stock and Snatch, have you ever had any feedback from the fraternity you're depicting?
A.
No. I wouldn't want it. Guy probably did, but that's not my world.

Q. Was it very difficult to get hold of Colm Meaney for the role, considering he seems to be one of the busiest actors working today? Or was it written specifically with him in mind?
A.
Getting Colm, the hardest thing to get any actor is not usually getting past their work schedule, but getting past their agent. Once we finally convinced the agent to give him the script, it worked out very quickly. It's one of those scripts when people read it, they responded well. But the reason they were holding back, probably, was down to me. If I'd called as a producer, they would have passed it on straight away, probably, but as a director, it suddenly became much more of a risky proposition. Agents don't like to put any risky decisions, in case they lose their client as a result.

Q. Are you going to carry on directing?
A.
Yes, I do want to carry on directing. I'm hoping this film will be successful enough to warrant that, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a stepping stone in terms of the films I want to make, which are big action proper movies, in my mind. So I hope this is the beginning.

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